#1 Starting at the garden gate, I came up with the idea of using two old shovels and using them as a way of making a garden entry more dramatic. Drill small pilot holes through the wooden handles of the shovels first, and then screw them to the fence post.
#2 Use galvanized and porcelainized buckets and even watering cans as planters. Before filling them with dirt make many holes in the bottoms of the containers so your plants will have good drainage. If you don’t want to make holes in your container, put a brick in the bottom of the receptacle, then insert a plastic or terracotta pot in the bucket. After a few watering or heavy rain storms, take out the inner pot, pour off the excess water and put the plant back into its fancy outer container.
#3 Repurpose an old wheelbarrow into a planter. Make holes in the bottom for good drainage, or fill the wheelbarrow with potted plants.
#4 Use old grinding or mill stones as a threshold to your garden, or as stepping-stones. Lay your stone(s) on the ground where you think you want it/them, then with a half-moon edger, cut around the stone. Move the stone and dig out some earth to plant your stone. Take a brick and tamp the bottom of the hole to compress the dirt, then put the stone in place. You might have to lift the stone a few times to dig out more dirt, or add dirt to level the stone.
#5 Use horse shoes as decorations on fences or on sides of gardening / out buildings. Just hammer a few long brads, or nails with small heads into the spaces inside of the shoes, and you will have them up in no time. If you are hanging many shoes to cover the entire side of a building, first hang the shoes that go down the center of your space, then work out from there on both the left and right sides; staggering placement if you desire.
#6 Use old lawn mowers, block and tackle, rusty hay lifting tongs, ice tongs, wash boards, even tractor or horse pulled hay rakes as a garden or lawn decorations. Think about the sculptural shape of the pieces.
#7 Turn an old garden water pump into a sculptural decoration. The pump does not have to be hooked up (it will be your little secret). Just hammer a few rebar rods into the ground first or a pipe that you can fit the water pump over, and you are ready to go. Just remember that the way the water spout of the pump is facing is the way the directed action of that element is going. The pump in the illustration is directing your eye toward the right from the left side of the illustration.
#8 Like the pails suggested in #2, use an old watering trough as a planter. After making your drainage holes, fill it with soil. If you don’t want to completely fill it with dirt, take large plastic pots that bushes or trees would come in, and place them in the bottom of the trough inverted. Then put some landscape fabric over the inverted pots, after that fill it with your planting mix.
#9 Hang old kerosene lanterns from the branches of a tree over a picnic table, using strong wire. You don’t have to ever light them, just think of them as a chandelier of sorts for outside.
#10 Use an old milk can as a pedestal for a potted plant in the center of a garden. You can also use two milk cans to flank a door and use them as plant stands.
#11 Use old wagon wheels as an entrance to a garden. You can also put many wheels together and turn them into a fence of sorts or a trellis to grow roses or other things on. You can even just attach them to an existing fence for sculptural interest (wheels would also look great hung up on a barn over the door). If you are using the wheels as an entrance to a garden, first attach two 2″x2″ pieces of wood to the backs of the wheels, that you have painted a dark green color. Cut your wood 2 feet longer that the wheel is tall so you can bury the two extra feet of wood in the ground so the wheel will be stable.
#12 Use an old iron or brass bed as a trellis for roses or other non-evasive vines like clematis. Keep the bed in its natural aged color if you like, or paint it to match an existing fence. If you paint it to match a fence (let’s pretend you painted it white to go with a white fence) it will be more subtle and sculptural, and the different surfaces of the bed will show light and shadows.
#13 Hang a collection of old shovels, rakes, sickles, wire baskets, etc up on the wall of an out building. You could also take the shovels and rakes and with the help of two different lengths of wood (2″x2″), turn them into a trellis to grow vines on.
As always, I hope I’ve gotten your imagination going. My suggestions are just a starting point. I now want you to start thinking about how you can use things that you have seen and used many times before in a new and interesting way. Design and imagination is really about taking the old and tweaking it so it becomes fresh and new.
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Designing / Laying out Flower Beds 5-4-2013,
Designing a Rock Garden with Different sizes of Stones 6-28-2012,
After planting SEMPERVIVUM hens-and-chickens, water them sparingly 7-5-2012,
Got Grass growing out onto your Sidewalk or Driveway?..Edge it! 8-26-2012.
Thank you for your lovely and helpful blog. I enjoy bit bit of gardening in a tiny space in Japan and happily will use your advice and illustrations.
I like your tip #11. I think that wagon wheels would look great with my picket fence. Hopefully, they will stay stable and look great.